Watching A Game Of Tennis – Manchester 21st April 2014

Being in the Bullens Road stand at Goodison Park is like stepping back in time. We found ourselves right behind a pillar propping the upper tier. We swung our heads like people watching a game of tennis to see what was happening on the pitch. We bemoaned the fact that we had a lousy view of the pitch and about sixty minutes into the game, we were very grateful for the same reason. For all the poor view, there is something quaintly old fashioned about the Bullens Road stand. The concourse was tight and before the match beer was being served. When Kevin Mirallas put Everton 2-0 up just before half time, we had the consolation of knowing we could have a pint or two at half time to anaesthetise us from the shite we had just witnessed. A stream of reds went down to the concourse, every one to a man gagging for a pint. Getting there, we found that Police had banned the sale of alcohol for half time and for once, I don’t think they were acting out of order. This was down to people with beer prior to the match throwing it indiscrminately on the concourse. Just to clarify, people were paying £4.00 for a pint of beer to throw it around like they were at an Oasis concert. I’ve been boozing since the late 1980s and trust me, I can think of far better things to do with a pint of lager that’s cost £4.00 (or even £2.00 come to think of it) than throw it around. I do wonder sometimes what kind of dickheads we have following United, who in their right mind would want to throw a pint of beer up in the air? There was similar goings on in the Wetherspoons on Elliot Street across the road from Lime Street rail station before the game. We had a pint in there but decided to get out of there sharpish before the police turned up. We knew from past experience that they could kettle the entire pub. During half time, there were United fans and scousers shouting abuse at each other behind an aluminium wall. They couldn’t even see each other never mind carry out the empty threats that were being made. I was stood with both amusement and bemusement at what I was seeing.

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Plum Spot in the Lower Bullens stand at Goodison Park

I don’t think this was United’s worst performance of the season, that accolade goes to the Newcastle home fixture in December (with some stiff competition admittedly). The performance was though dreadful, devoid of any fight, threat or idea. When Everton went 1-0 in front with a Leighton Baines penalty, there was no feeling of United getting back into the game. We knew that the match was lost at that moment. There was absolutely no expectation or anticipation of United going up a gear. No faith of a swashbuckling comeback like there would have been in previous times. For the travelling reds it was a difficult pill to swallow from a team that is, at the time of writing, still the League Champions. It was an abject and spineless performance, one which may affect David Moyes position drastically at the end of the season. Moyes left an improving Everton side for an obviously declining United side. For that mitigation, United’s performances, have this season largely been as bad as anything that was seen in the grim days of Sir Alex Ferguson’s early incumbency. United couldn’t even use the excuse of fatigue or lethargy for this apology of a showing. As Dwight Yorke said at half time, “These players are international players, the reason you play for Manchester United football club is because you’re the best, but they’re not showing it. Ten days rest, you expect the players to show up and be sharp.”

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Leighton Baines about to put Everton in the lead

When United lost to Everton last December, they were unlucky. That was the night that I knew United weren’t going to win this seasons title. Yesterday made mathematically sure that United weren’t going to be playing in the European Cup next season. Unlike the match in December though, United got everything they deserved yesterday. David Moyes showed an admirable one eyed defiance in his post match press conference. If there was just a fraction of that defiance from the shambles of a side that he fielded yesterday, I’d have some hope for him. He looks to me like a man who cannot motivate his side and worse, they actually look confused when  in possession of the ball.

“We gave away two terrible goals, but prior to that we’d passed the ball brilliantly well and kept control of the game. We couldn’t make chances and we got done by two stupid decisions, poor goals on the break. We played very well in the first half and came in two down. We didn’t have a final through pass or a finish. I couldn’t fault how we played, we kept the ball incredibly well.”           David Moyes, Post match press conference, Goodison Park 20th April 2014

Some people said at the time of that pre Christmas loss to Everton that United would do well to finish top four, I thought they were scaremongering but they were obviously with hindsight, spot on. In March, giddy and gleeful City fans with memories of goldfish but with an inferior football knowledge sang, that United were “the worst fucking champions we’ve ever seen…“. This from fans of the only club ever to have been relegated the season immediately after winning the title but they were on the right tracks. Statistically both Leeds United and Blackburn Rovers have provided a worse title defence in modern times (to be fair, I wouldn’t expect blues to know about that), but even allowing for that, it’s been a woeful season. Sir Alex has his share of culpability but even though he left Moyes with a declining side, what he didn’t leave him was the clueless rabble that were an embarassment to the United shirt yesterday. United’s first shot on target was from Shinj Kagawa in front of the Park End on 47 minutes. It was an easy save for Tim Howard to make but at least and at last, no matter how tame, an impotent United had made the Everton keeper earn his haircut. Before that shot, Leighton Baines had put Everton into the lead with a penalty on 28 minutes which went straight down the middle. This was after Phil Jones had decided to lighten David De Gea’s workload and save a Romelu Lukaku shot which De Gea had covered.

One thing I can say with confidence is that if Moyes doesn’t go this summer, then a significant amount of that squad will. Whichever happens, it’s gonna be the liveliest summer seen at Old Trafford since 1995 when (for varying reasons) Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Andrei Kanchelskis were sold by Sir Alex Ferguson. The following season saw a group of relative unknowns (whom are now loosely known as the Class of ’92) prompt an infamous statement from Alan Hansen that everybody quietly agreed with at the time. Those players would be a major part of United winning the double a year later. I don’t expect that to happen next season.

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Reds enjoying the hospitality of Ma Egerton’s next to Lime Street station last night

Thanks to Tommy Murphy, Steve Black and Steve Armstrong for their help in sorting tickets out. Thanks also to Derm O’Dea of for letting us use his car park


17 thoughts on “Watching A Game Of Tennis – Manchester 21st April 2014”

  1. I couldn’t get a ticket for yesterday and unlike previous seasons, couldn’t be arsed getting tickets for the home end
    Watching this was painful. Let’s not fool ourselves with great passing, control of possession etc, this was abject
    Fergie built teams with a strong spine this is a spineless team! De Gea must wonder what is happening and I have a fear he may be off back to Spain to ply his trade and confirm he is real quality.
    As for Nani, words really fail me!
    The season end can’t come soon enough for me and you know what I think the players are in the same mindset
    I have actually gone beyond ranting now
    Cheers for the great reads this season and can’t wait for the summer, with reading that everyman and his dog are joining united

    1. Cheers Pete, with it being live on SKY and tickets being tricky to come across, I don’t blame anybody for swerving this match yesterday who didn’t have a ticket. For the umpteenth time this season, I saw good possession from United early in the game but no threat of a goal.

      As for Fergie building teams with a spine, I know this gets repeated ad nauseam but United’s spine hasn’t been the same since Roy Keane left (by mutual consent) in 2005. The only player in the Premier League who could fill his boots at the moment is Yaya Toure. I have a feeling that Marouane Fellaini is not going to cut it 😉

  2. Great piece, I for one was never happy with Moyes coming in. I felt we needed a proven winner with an ego as inflated as Sir Alex was, alias Jose. We needed a manager that could come in and stamp his authority on the team and continue Fergie’s work. However, yesterday like many other defeats have proven that Moyes and his back ground team, are out of their depth. We have shown no fight or bite in conceding an early goal. When Baines scored my immediate thought was “well Fuck that anyway”. I knew from previous games and defeats that there was going to be no reply. Under Ferguson, you always knew we would respond and thought yeah we conceded but we will score, we always do and we would most of the time.
    I’ve been a supporter since the league cup win against Leicester, I’ve known nothing but success, I was only a kid in the ’80’s but tines have changed. Football is a massive business, it’s a different animal now, managers with longevity is a thing of the past. Ferguson and Wenger, these types are gone. If United and the board feel its the right way to go then fine, but clearly it’s not with Moyes at the helm. He has shown a lack of fight, tactics & team ethics that is Manchester United, I feel now that the fans need to show at Old Trafford that they don’t support Moyes and want change. If not, this mediocre shite will continue…

    1. Mostly agree, it’s interesting that you say football is a massive business, it always has been big business though obviously the advent of the Premier League has made it a far more lucrative business than it used to be. I see no reason why managers of longevity need to be a thing of the past, the fact that Arsene Wenger is still in situ is to me, a testament to that. Football chairman/CEO’s have always had a trigger happy streak. Witness Sam Longson sacking Brian Clough from Derby County in 1973, a year after he won a title and six months after he took them to the European Cup semi final. Clough knew a thing or two about longevity.

      As for Moyes, I’ve always called for calm. I remember that if most of the Old Trafford crowd got their way, Ferguson would have been sacked in the winter of 1989. As much as the calm that I’ve wanted with Moyes, yesterday turned me from doubt to the belief that he should now go. He’s clearly a good manager at a certain level of football, he’s just well out of his depth at Old Trafford. That’s not entirely his fault. He was offered the job and he would’ve been a fool to turn it down but when he has players with the potency of Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Juan Mata looking as blunt as they did on the pitch yesterday, then something is seriously wrong

  3. Another great write up Tony and top marks to you and your mates for still following this woeful team !!

    1. Cheers Steve. I’ve gotta say that apart from the match, I enjoyed my day in Liverpool yesterday immensely. We had a good drink near Lime Street after the match and would’ve happily stayed longer but we thought it would be wiser to get back to Manchester before our local pub shut.

  4. It was like stepping back in time as in this post Hillsborough era you refused to sit down which possibly might have improved your view.
    Your multi million pound squad don’t appear to give a toss about what emotively must have been Moyes most important game of the season. The second halves dawdling play illustrated their disinterest in their leader.

    1. Thanks for your advice. Would I be right in thinking that if I adjusted my posture from standing to sitting, I would be able to see through an iron pillar propping up the upper tier? Does being seated adjust vision to that enjoyed by Superman? I’ll try that next time I’m in a stadium that has that layout which, come to think of it, will probably be the next time I’m at Goodison (a place that I genuinely hold in affection by the way).

      As for your second point, I agree entirely, We might have endgame on this sooner rather than later if the popular media are to be believed, especially after the rumour frenzy that kicked off at around half two this afternoon.

    2. Standing up at a football ground, is something, most, if not all football fans do. Especially away. Even the saintly Liverpool fans do it while spitting their bile at all and sundry. I’ve also seen Everton fans do it. So what is your point. Post Hillsborough? You’re not getting caught up in the over reported Hillsborough inquest are you. Everyone I know wants justice for the poor souls and their families, of those who perished. But don’t use that disaster as your totem pole of respectability. Remember, whatever the police did after the event, they did not crush anyone purposely. Some people did.

  5. Commenting on this game, now seems pointless. The sacking of Moyes has seen to that but if this same squad of players suddenly end the season with a Fergie style flourish, it will beg the question, Why? Was it because they were being stifled, by a system they couldn’t grasp? Or was because senior players (we’ve all heard the rumours) didn’t like the new regime? Either way, it’s a stinking business. I’m old enough to remember Frank O’Farrell taking over after Wilf McGuinness. That too was very uncomfortable. But business is business. I can’t believe I’ve just printed that. Good luck David.

    1. I think all kinds of dirty propoganda is about to be unleashed in the next couple of weeks. I’d like to think that professional footballers would have a bit of respect both for their clubs and themselves to refrain from doing it but, as we saw when City sacked Mancini almost a year ago, footballers are as bad as any politician when it comes to bad mouthing. They’re even worse when trying to cover their tracks. I don’t expect certain United players to behave with any more honour.

  6. Agree about the view but I would take Goodison over all those identikit grounds any day of the week. It was a bit unusual selling UWS outside and Everton fans buying the mag being so keen to ask my opinion on Moyes, it was as if they could not believe what has happened this year, how easy it was for them and wanted to quiz those who had seen it at close quarters.

    Everton played well but I did not for one minute think we had a way back in once Baines scored. And I have always thought we could come back. At least FC kept that spirit going!

    Pleasure watching Moyes’ last game with you, end of an era.

    1. Agree Neil, Half of Goodison is from another time but there’s something very reassuring about the Bullens Road stand. The pillar wasn’t too much of an obstruction and years ago, so used as we were to that kind of structure, we would’ve hardly noticed. As you say with identikit modern stadia, the views are most excellent (although Wembley is still literally a shithole) but when places like Goodison and White Hart Lane go, and they will, it will be a sad day.

      Enjoyed watching the game with you too mate, for the third time though I’ll ask you, where the bleedin’ hell did you get to when we got out of that taxi at Lime Street? 🙂

  7. A good read as ever – hope you’ll be covering the world cup in Brazil to keep us all reading over the summer! see ya soon Tony

    1. Only if I think of something worth saying. As Kate would ruefully attest, I love watching any kind of football match and I’m looking forward to the four weeks of none stop football that’s coming up in the summer. Truth is though Phil, I don’t get international football the way I do with United. If England are playing, I’d like them to win but I’m not really bothered either way. I find it difficult to get wound up wishing for the good fortune of a load of players whom I can’t stand (Gerrard, Ashley Cole, etc) and don’t get me started on traveling England fans 😉 . My main concern when watching international football is the physical welfare of United players although if something happened to Nani during the summer, well…

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